A Falmouth man on Wednesday admitted that he misrepresented himself as a Department of Homeland Security employee to obtain more than $700,000 worth of equipment for his personal use, including a Land Rover SUV, a 44-foot sailboat and a Boston Whaler with two engines.
Joshua Cory Frances, 44, pleaded guilty remotely in U.S. District Court in Portland to one count each of federal program fraud and wire fraud between September 2015 and 2016. In exchange for his guilty pleas, one count each of wire fraud, impersonating a government employee and theft of government money will be dismissed at his sentencing.
A sentencing date has not been set. Frances remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail pending sentencing.
Frances began misrepresenting himself to make purchases when he worked for Maine Task Force One and the Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The task force is made up of physician assistants and emergency medical technicians who helped out emergency personnel at events in southern Maine including air shows and a New Year’s Day Lobster Dip at Old Orchard Beach. The task force was sponsored by the Portland hospital and received federal funds through the Maine Emergency Management Agency, the state version of FEMA.
Frances’ attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, said his client made mistakes.
“Josh made some mistakes here with obtaining equipment and he owned that with his plea today,” McKee said. “When we finally get to sentencing I think you will see that at the end of the day he was a solid leader of Maine Task Force One and his heart was always in the right place.”
Frances was fired in August 2016 as the hospital’s director of emergency preparedness for allegedly misusing funds, according to court documents. He later worked as a reserve officer for FEMA doing disaster relief work.
In 2014, Frances allegedly posed as an employee of the Department of Homeland Security to buy a new $50,000 Land Rover Defender station wagon from a dealer in Vermont with personal funds. He also falsified documents with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain waivers so the vehicle — imported from the United Kingdom — did not have to be modified to meet American emissions standards.
Frances in October 2015 also bought a 44-foot sailboat, named Courageous, that was used for training by the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval Officers’ Reserve Training Corps at the University of California, Berkeley, for $50,000 through the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office. The agency sells surplus military equipment to police departments. He claimed the sailboat would be used by Homeland Security in Portland.
Frances also bought a 27-foot Boston Whaler for $3,500 and two outboard motors, valued at $20,000. While Frances paid for the vessels with his own funds, he charged the more than $20,000 cost of transporting them to Maine to the Portland hospital where he worked.
Frances faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and up to 10 years in prison on the federal program fraud charge. In addition, Frances could be fined up to $250,000.
In his plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office, Frances agreed to waive his right to appeal his sentence to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court in Boston if he is sentenced to less than two years in prison. He also agreed to forfeit the Boston Whaler, the two outboard motors and an amount of money that is yet to be determined.